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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Beloeil—Chambly (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 15% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, my colleague is talking about the lack of planning that there seems to have been at the Parole Board. It is interesting, because we saw in committee, from both the minister and the officials, an acknowledgement that they did not want to do more because it would be too much work. Therefore, when the member talks about the numbers not anticipating an increase in requests for record suspensions, it is true.

If we look at Bill C-66, which had an application-based process for expungement for the historical injustice done to LGBTQ Canadians, that process has only been taken advantage of by seven people. Therefore, how are we to believe that the most marginalized Canadians, those whom the bill purports to help, are going to be able to acquire the documents they need and go through the other parts of the process?

At the end of the day, the government might be waiving the fee and saying that it is great and it is expedited, but ultimately these are individuals who get taken advantage of by bad actors who are out there offering bad advice for thousands of dollars, saying they are consultants and things of that nature.

The whole system is backwards and broken, not to mention the fact that we believe expungement would have been the best course of action, as did all the witnesses at committee. Does my colleague not agree that had the Liberals made it automatic, that would have gone at least some way in making this whole process work better, even if it required just a little more effort from these individuals at the Parole Board and the minister himself?

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

An issue was raised when we studied the bill at committee. I understand that the Conservatives are opposed to expungement. Although I do not necessarily agree with their reasons, I do understand them.

Having said that, we, at least the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, agree with them about one thing, namely that we heard a lot about an automatic mechanism. As things currently stand, in Bill C-93 and in the record suspension system itself, the burden rests with citizens.

Under normal circumstances, we can understand that it is up to citizens to obtain all the documents and pay other fees that are not necessarily in the federal government's control, but that must be paid to obtain certain documents. However, in a situation like this, which is meant to address an act that is now legal, it is rather unfair.

If I am not mistaken, his colleague from Yellowhead spoke at committee about the example of San Francisco, which is using artificial intelligence software to locate files.

Does my colleague agree that the government could have worked harder to implement an automatic process instead of making people run all over the place to obtain documents that are currently not well managed?

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Personally, I agree with letting people who have unpaid fines get a record suspension. That addresses one of the major flaws in the bill as originally written. Those fines are a significant barrier because, in many cases, people who need a record suspension to get a job do not have the means to pay the fines.

What I gathered from officials who appeared before the committee is that different governments handle this different ways but that they are still responsible for collecting fines. Personally, I strongly believe that it would be totally unfair if people who have unpaid fines and a record because of an offence that is no longer an offence, simple possession of cannabis, could not apply for a record suspension. I think eliminating that barrier makes perfect sense.

Before I sit down, I would like to respond to what my colleague said in his preamble. This bill is being rushed through at the last second, even though marijuana legalization was one of this Liberal government's flagship promises. Yes, the Liberals went through with it, but I want to make it clear that they did not really hold adequate consultations. The work was botched at times. At the end of the day, this is a bill that is being rushed through at the last minute, despite having been on the government's agenda from the start.

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, the Liberals continue to relitigate, as it were, the last election to justify their failure to do better here for black Canadians, indigenous people and other marginalized Canadians who carry the disproportionate burden of criminal records for simple possession of cannabis.

Every single person who came to committee said that the Liberal government could do better. This was supposed to be a pillar of the Liberals' platform in the last election. This legislation is arriving one month before Parliament rises and several months before the next election, and we do not even know if it will make it through the Senate with all of the nonsense that goes on there. It is no wonder that the Liberals want to live four years in the past.

Those individuals who are marginalized will not be able to benefit from the scheme put forward in Bill C-93. The government could have supported the member for Victoria and all those who are fighting for these marginalized Canadians. These Canadians are not going to benefit from the rhetoric of the last election. They would have benefited from an automatic pardon, and even better, an automatic expungement. We are so far from the mark. It is so disappointing.

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin today by quoting Solomon Friedman, a defence attorney who appeared before the committee.

I think that this quote clearly states what we think of this bill.

I should first note that Bill C-93 is better than nothing. But better than nothing is a mighty low bar for our Parliament. You can do better. You must do better. Instead, I would urge a scheme of expungement along the lines already provided for in the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act.

I would add here that that was a bill presented by the government. He went on to say that the record of these convictions for the simple possession of cannabis “should be expunged permanently and automatically”.

I also want to read a quote from Elana Finestone, from the Native Women's Association of Canada:

Unfortunately, the effects of the bill will go unrealized for many indigenous women with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis. Simply put, the bill remains inaccessible for indigenous women who are poor and have administration of justice issues associated with their simple possession of cannabis conviction.

I must repeat what I said in my questions earlier. I have never seen such a sorry, pathetic attempt. I have all the respect in the world for our public servants, and they told the committee that it was too much work for them. They said that there were no systems in place that would allow them to expunge criminal records for simple possession, as parliamentarians wanted. This is unacceptable, and this is a far cry from the Liberals' claims of “better is always possible”. As members can see in the quotes I read out, that certainly does not apply to this bill.

Furthermore, when the minister appeared in committee, he was unable to answer my very simple questions. The Prime Minister, the parliamentary secretary who just spoke, the Minister of Public Safety and the associate minister in charge of border security have all acknowledged, on different occasions, the impact that pre-legalization laws had on indigenous peoples, racialized persons, the poor and all marginalized Canadians. They all acknowledged this.

What the Liberals did with Bill C-66, which provided for the expungement of the criminal records of LGBTQ people, was a good, commendable thing. It was what a fair and just society should do. The Liberals expunged those criminal records.

Why did they not do the same thing in this case? I asked the minister that question. Unbelievably, he responded that Bill C-66 had to do with violating rights that were protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Excuse me, but that is quite an arbitrary criterion. I asked all of the witnesses who appeared in committee whether the law included the concept of injustice specifically with respect to a violation of our rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They all told me that it did not.

Not only did they say no, but Kent Roach specifically recognized that the minister's standard for defining historical injustice is nothing but a fabrication of the government, an arbitrary measuring stick that it put in place with Bill C-66, and now suddenly it does not want to follow through with Bill C-93 for these marginalized Canadians who, in a different way, have been victims of their own historical injustice.

I could not put it better than Cannabis Amnesty put it at committee when it quoted a Supreme Court decision that recognized that a law can be found to have been discriminatory even if the law itself is not discriminatory, but its application has been discriminatory. It is hard to find better examples in the history of our country than the war on drugs and the criminalization of simple possession of cannabis.

The minister, being unable to respond to those questions, led a parade of witnesses at committee who all agreed with the sentiment expressed in the quotes I shared with the House, that this bill is nothing more than an 11th hour attempt to check off a box and really does very little.

Putting the onus on marginalized Canadians is never going to lead to the kind of justice this bill purports to want to attain. Why? We just need to look at Bill C-66 and the expungement of the criminal records of LGBTQ Canadians. Seven out of the 9,000 some-odd Canadians who could have applied have applied. There are seven out of 9,000, and change. What would be different this time? We asked the officials and they were unable to provide us with an answer, except to say they are going to come up with creative ad campaigns using social media and things like that. It is unbelievable to think that we are going to reach the most marginalized in our society by coming up with fancy hashtags and buzzwords on social media. It is simply mind-boggling.

My speaking time at report stage is limited. I have just 10 minutes, but I want to talk about the amendments that were adopted.

First, there is the amendment proposed by the Green Party. To be clear, this amendment was proposed by the Green Party and then amended by the Liberals. At first glance, it seems well intentioned. It ensures that record suspensions remain in effect regardless of the good behaviour criteria that usually applies. That is something we support in principle. We support it because a record suspension can be revoked under these criteria, for a speeding ticket for instance. We can all agree that this type of assessment is profoundly unjust.

However, the Green Party's amendment amended by the Liberals omits a very important aspect. This is not just about good behaviour. Under this amendment, a Canadian whose criminal record is suspended under the terms of Bill C-93 and who commits a crime thereafter will have their criminal record suspension annulled and will continue to carry the burden of their criminal record for simple possession of cannabis. They will then be unable to make an application under the terms of Bill C-93.

This means that marginalized Canadians, who belong to the various groups that were just mentioned, could presumably benefit from the process set out in Bill C-93, but not if they commit a crime thereafter. Clearly, we are not pardoning the crime that has been committed, whether it is proven in court or not. However, we know that all sorts of factors could come into play, such as mental health, housing and the discrimination that exists in our legal system and our criminal justice system. This means that, whenever another crime is committed, the activity previously engaged in that is now considered legal remains illegal. That is utterly absurd and illogical. I have a very hard time understanding how a government that says it wants to help these people can go in that direction.

I could not believe what the member for Toronto—Danforth said at committee. I felt like I was in the last Parliament, with Vic Toews as Minister of Public Safety. At committee, I said that Canadians who obtain a record suspension for simple possession of cannabis should be allowed to keep that record suspension even if they have committed other crimes, because simple possession of cannabis is now legal. To paraphrase her quite accurately, she said that the NDP was trying to make it easier for murderers to obtain record suspensions. I invite Canadians to look at the transcript.

That is the kind of rhetoric that led to a change in government in 2015. We have a member of Parliament from downtown Toronto employing the same rhetoric as Stephen Harper's Conservatives in the previous Parliament. That is unreal. All we are trying to do is to ensure that the most marginalized Canadians with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis do not continue to be criminalized because they get caught up in the continuing discrimination they have to live with from our criminal justice system.

I want to raise one last point because I have only a minute left. I want to talk about the administration of justice.

Representatives of various indigenous organizations talked to us about indigenous individuals who had a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis and who did not show up in court because the court was too far from where they live or because of any number of other factors one can think of that would interfere with getting to court. The representatives told us that these people, who get a record suspension—even though the NDP would have preferred an automatic expungement—these people cannot get a record suspension, much less an expungement, because they did not appear in court on charges of simple possession of cannabis, which is no longer a crime.

In conclusion, this government said it wanted to make things better, but it is a long way from delivering justice to the most marginalized members of our society.

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I have been a member of Parliament for eight years and I have never been angrier studying a bill. Let me explain why.

The Liberal government did the bare minimum because Parole Board of Canada officials balked at the idea of doing more work, claiming their files were unreliable and not up-to-date, and the Board had yet to adopt 21st century technology. That is a sorry way to support marginalized people.

I have a question for my colleague and I thank him for his speech. He acknowledges that people were disproportionately targeted by laws that existed before cannabis was legalized.

In Bill C-66, the Liberals expunged the criminal records LGBTQ people received in the past in our country. Why not do the same here? Why create an arbitrary standard instead of doing right by everyone who was discriminated against?

The Environment May 16th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is interesting to hear the hon. member talk about the Conservatives working hard to fight policy, when the Liberals are paying more attention to the Conservative plan than to than their own record.

They talked about the devastating impact of Stephen Harper's plan. The previous Conservative government's targets are the same as the current ones. What is more, according to the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, the Liberal government will not reach those targets. Can my colleague explain how the Liberals can say that they want to declare a climate emergency when they bought a pipeline and have the same targets as the Conservative Party, whom they relentlessly criticize?

Earlier I heard a member from Toronto say that the fact they bought a pipeline does not negate all the other measures they implemented. However, facts are facts, and the pipeline they bought will substantially increase our greenhouse gas emissions.

How does the hon. member reconcile his words with the actions of his government?

Justice May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, whether we are talking about Vice-Admiral Mark Norman's reputation or the workers at Davie shipyard in Quebec City, the Prime Minister's reprehensible behaviour on this file has had significant repercussions. The Liberal government is showing that it has no respect for the rule of law. Now we are hearing about allegations of witness tampering, not to mention the documents the government concealed.

Will the Liberals finally allow Canadians to hear the truth and order a genuinely independent inquiry to get to the bottom of the Mark Norman affair?

Criminal Records Act May 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I think if it were not for my colleague asking questions about young people, there would be little to no discussion about it in the House even though we have a minister responsible for youth, namely the Prime Minister.

However, one thing is clear, and I talked about it in my speech. Imagine a young person who has a criminal record or a record for failing to appear in court, to attend a hearing or to pay a fine of $50, which is a lot of money for some. Imagine that young person not being eligible for the process the government is proposing because they failed to pay a $50 fine. That person would be disqualified for not serving his sentence, which was to pay a fine. That is outrageous because, as my colleague said, that person is just getting started in life. People do not seek to have their records expunged or, in this case, suspended, just for the fun of it. This can truly affect people's ability to get a job, rent an apartment, do volunteer work here at home.

I will conclude with this. Is it illegal to discriminate against a potential employee, even when we know perfectly well that discrimination sadly exists in our society? Yes. It is illegal for an employer to ask whether a candidate has a criminal record that was suspended? No.

I would ask the following question of all members. Why should Canadians who have criminal records because of a law that discriminates against the most vulnerable and racialized Canadians have to pay the price for something that is now legal and because of this government's failed policies?

I am still looking for the answer. No one has been able to answer me that.

Criminal Records Act May 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for his support for the bill introduced by the hon. member for Victoria.

In fact, I cannot answer his question specifically. Part of me believes that we are better off not knowing. It is true that the minister himself often said throughout the process that he wanted to ensure that Canadians were well aware that they should not lie at the border. Often, as Liberal MPs have acknowledged, the process is so complicated in a bill like this that Canadians travelling abroad are not always clear on what they should and should not say.

Personally, I have a hard time understanding why the minister could not simply say to his U.S. counterpart that Canada adopted legislation and all criminal records for simple possession of cannabis have been expunged.

There is something else I want to talk about. The member went to Washington. The American example is very interesting. In jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis, like in San Francisco, where the initial process was similar to what the government is proposing today, almost no one availed themselves of the process. A dozen or so people out of hundreds of thousands of people with a record went through the process. California decided to institute an automatic process to expunge the records. People did not even have to request that it be done.

Other jurisdictions similar to ours have been through this and they managed to do so. If I am not mistaken, the research we did even showed that artificial intelligence has been used to process cases.

In conclusion I would say that the government simply wants to revive the last election campaign. It wants catch phrases and talking points. It has clearly decided to just throw us a bone, but there is not much meat on that bone. It is pretty bare at the moment, which is unfortunate. Jokes aside, actual Canadians are affected by this.

I am proud that we are standing up for them. It is unfortunate that the government is not doing the same.

I thank my colleague for his support.